Virginia’s Loudoun County made the news last month after an outrageous response from locals at a school board meeting. You likely saw the video or photos of adults losing their minds, screaming in opposition to policies that would protect trans rights and to what they’ve taken to calling “critical race theory” which has been turned into a but is really just the idea that teaching American history should no longer be varnished by the myths of white supremacy.
“Tonight, the Loudoun County School Board meeting was interrupted by those who wish to use the public comment period to disrupt our work and disrespect each other,” Loudoun County School Board Chair Brenda Sheridan said after the meeting. “Dog-whistle politics will not delay our work. We will not back down from fighting for the rights of our students and continuing our focus on equity.”
But those attending the school board meeting are not the only reactionaries freaking out in Loudoun County recently. During a Loudoun County Board of Supervisors meeting back in May, Democratic elected officials spoke out against cannabis legalization in Virginia.
Loudoun County Chair-At Large Phyllis J. Randall, a Democrat, said that “one reason and one reason only” for legalizing cannabis is “for taxes.” She also claimed that cannabis is “addictive” and claimed the effects of cannabis can last “days.”
“I completely agree with the chair’s fears about legalizing marijuana, I’m absolutely opposed to it, I don’t think we should’ve done it, I think it’s an idiotic law, however it’s been done,” Supervisor Michael Turner, also a Democrat, said.
As The Outlaw Report noted back in May, “both Randall and Turner’s claims are not only inaccurate, they ignore the rhetoric surrounding cannabis reform and legalization in Virginia which has primarily focused on legalization as a racial equity issue—with increased tax revenue being a sort of added bonus to righting decades of the racist drug war’s wrongs.”
Indeed, Virginia’s date for cannabis legalization was moved up to July 1, 2021 in order to reduce the amount of cannabis arrests in the state—arrests that disproportionately affect Black Virginians. According to the ACLU, Black people in Virginia are 3.4 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis than white people, and 52% of drug arrests in the state are for cannabis possession. The 2020 ACLU report, “A Tale of Two Countries,” shows that in Loudoun County, a Black person is more than 3.6 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis than a white person Loudoun County is around 68% white and a little over 7% Black.
In a June 24 story for The Loudoun Times about upcoming legalization, the Democratic panic about cannabis was not mentioned. It does however quote Michelle Thomas, president of the Loudoun branch of the NAACP. Thomas stressed the significance of legalization in terms of the racist war on drugs.
“No longer can they criminalize or search your vehicle because you have a small portion of possession of marijuana,” she told The Loudoun Times. “That’s a good thing; I think there’s a lot of Black men especially, and women, who have for so long been targeted.”
Meanwhile, as The Burn reported, Beyond/Hello is in the process of establishing Loudoun County’s first cannabis dispensary.